The end game might be glacially slow, but a cau­tious Ramaphosa knows the havoc that Zuma can still wreak

Sunday Times - - Opinion - RANJENI MUNUSAMY

If Thabo Mbeki and Ja­cob Zuma had a strange re­la­tion­ship, the one be­tween Cyril Ramaphosa and Zuma is down­right bizarre. Mbeki and Zuma had their own greet­ing and coded lan­guage. There had to be some level of trust in ex­ile and dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Na­tional Party.

They un­der­stood each other’s strengths and weak­nesses. The break­down in their re­la­tion­ship was not just po­lit­i­cal but deeply per­sonal. Zuma has never trusted Ramaphosa. Their ca­reer paths were dif­fer­ent, with Ramaphosa climb­ing the ranks of the “in­x­iles” to be­come the ANC’s key ne­go­tia­tor dur­ing the Codesa talks and con­sti­tu­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions.

For Zuma, the real skill was be­hind the scenes and Ramaphosa was sim­ply the ANC’s front man. But he also har­boured sus­pi­cions about Ramaphosa’s loy­al­ties, which he has now used to poi­son sen­ti­ment against the new ANC leader.

Zuma was not happy when his sup­port­ers ap­proached Ramaphosa to be his run­ning mate for the ANC’s 2012 elec­tive con­fer­ence. But they said Ramaphosa was nec­es­sary on the ticket to keep the mid­dle class and in­vestors on side as the Zuma project ploughed on.

Ramaphosa had been re­luc­tant to re­turn to ac­tive pol­i­tics un­less he was guar­an­teed the ANC pres­i­dency in 2017. He fell for the ruse that the Zuma camp would rally be­hind him and he would as­sume the pres­i­dency un­con­tested.

So from 2012, Ramaphosa had to stom­ach Zuma and the chaos he cre­ated in the ANC and the state. When Zuma fired Nh­lanhla Nene as fi­nance min­is­ter in De­cem­ber 2015, Ramaphosa re­alised how dan­ger­ous Zuma had be­come and stood up to him.

Their re­la­tion­ship pro­gres­sively de­te­ri­o­rated.

Ac­cord­ing to cur­rent and former min­is­ters, Ramaphosa had to con­stantly op­pose Zuma and his acolytes in cab­i­net meet­ings to pre­vent the Gup­tas tak­ing fur­ther con­trol of the state and of state-owned en­ter­prises.

When Zuma told ANC of­fi­cials that he in­tended to fire Pravin Gord­han and Mce­bisi Jonas in March last year, Ramaphosa fought him.

To­gether with Gwede Man­tashe and Zweli Mkhize, he told Zuma that the “in­tel­li­gence re­port” he used to make the de­ci­sion was non­sen­si­cal. The spu­ri­ous re­port claimed Gord­han and Jonas had con­spired with for­eign busi­ness­men against the pres­i­dent.

Zuma be­came deeply re­sent­ful and fired them any­way.

From then on, Ramaphosa re­alised he was in the fight of his life and that Zuma would do ev­ery­thing in his power to pre­vent him from be­com­ing pres­i­dent.

When the two men sat along­side each other at the ANC con­fer­ence at Nas­rec in De­cem­ber, you would never have guessed the re­sent­ment and dis­trust be­tween them.

Just like in the pic­tures re­leased by the gov­ern­ment this week of the two smil­ing pleas­antly at each other dur­ing com­mit­tee meet­ings, they were ge­nial and ca­jol­ing, even dur­ing the tense mo­ments when the re­sults of the ANC pres­i­den­tial race were pend­ing.

Zuma’s ex­pres­sion when Ramaphosa was an­nounced the win­ner be­trayed his real feel­ings.

On Tues­day evening, the two sat across from each other at Ge­naden­dal, the pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence in Cape Town, to face the truth of the mo­ment. One has to fall on his sword and the other has to as­cend to take his place.

Up to that point, Zuma had been de­fi­ant that he would not step down and dared the ANC to do their damnedest to eject him from of­fice. But Zuma even­tu­ally re­alised that the odds were stacked against him and sur­ren­dered.

Ramaphosa en­gaged in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Zuma know­ing full well that the man had told any­one who cared to lis­ten that Ramaphosa was a CIA spy. Yet Ramaphosa main­tained that Zuma should not be hu­mil­i­ated and granted him the time he re­quested to ten­der his res­ig­na­tion.

From the out­side, the pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions seemed like Ramaphosa was try­ing to per­form a cas­tra­tion with a tea­spoon while twirling a hula-hoop. Some peo­ple be­lieved that Zuma was lead­ing Ramaphosa by the nose.

In re­al­ity, Ramaphosa was try­ing to close the deal in a way that would al­low Zuma to save face. This was to pre­vent a fight­back from Zuma’s sup­port­ers, an out­break of vi­o­lence in KwaZulu-Na­tal and fur­ther frac­tur­ing of the ANC.

Ramaphosa knows that Zuma’s de­fault po­si­tion is to project him­self as a vic­tim, and that he would use his re­moval to in­cite fur­ther tur­moil in the ANC. As ANC leader and the fu­ture pres­i­dent of the coun­try, Ramaphosa would rather let Zuma en­joy the trap­pings of power for a few more days than have to deal with deadly vi­o­lence, or an ANC break­away.

The con­di­tions for Zuma’s de­par­ture, such as his le­gal costs and se­cu­rity ar­range­ments, are to make sure that even the pres­i­dent’s diehard sup­port­ers would see that he was get­ting a fair deal.

Any form of pre-pros­e­cu­tion amnesty would be il­le­gal, so Zuma is pre­par­ing for a re­tire­ment de­fined by mul­ti­ple le­gal bat­tles.

When Ramaphosa fi­nally de­liv­ers the 2018 state of the na­tion ad­dress, he will prob­a­bly be gra­cious to Zuma and ask the na­tion to re­spect him.

But Ramaphosa knows full well how bit­ter and dan­ger­ous Zuma is, and why he needs to be con­tained in his po­lit­i­cal af­ter­life.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.